Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Catholic Courtship and the Death of Eros

My two posts on the challenges of Catholic dating (Where are All the Good Catholic Men? and Some Good Catholic Men Answer the Question, "Where are All the Good Catholic Men?") have touched a nerve.  There are many thoughtful comments on my blog, and many more on Facebook.

On Facebook, one of the comments connects the trouble in Catholic relationships with Pop Catholic Culture in general.  On the blog, reader JVC is more specific, naming the Charismatic Renewal and Hipster Catholics as examples of the problem.

And a friend of mine can trace much of this back to Christopher West, who has "seeped into Catholic Youth culture the way Rousseau and Foucoult have seeped into the culture of academia and the culture at large."  West, for all his obsession with sex, actually claims that the goal in courtship is to achieve a state that is entirely devoid of sexual attraction - that only when the guy and gal can love one another pristinely and can be in a room alone together without experiencing any physical attraction will they be ready to marry.

That sounds a hell of a lot more like the end of a long marriage than the beginning of one.  We are not eunuchs, after all.

Or are we?

This all comes down to the suppression of Eros, which I have written about before.  We in the Church have mistakenly come to think that love is only Agape - which is the selfless love of neighbor, the disinterested self-giving that seeks only the good of the other.  But, as Pope Benedict has pointed out, Eros is also an aspect of love.  Eros is the love that desires, that hungers, that yearns, that seeks to possess, that is "jealous" in the sense of caring to the point where you're willing to fight for something or someone.  Eros sweeps us off our feet, possesses us, stirs us, takes risks, tears down our comfort zones, makes us live again.

Chesterton famously said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”  He was describing Eros.  But today we think that love and fighting must never go together, that getting your dander up and jousting for your lover is just testosterone on the loose.  On the contrary, unless God loved us with the love of Eros, He would never have sent His son to save us; for the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection are the greatest acts of both Eros and Agape combined.

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. - Deut. 4:24

When we smother Eros, we are killing an aspect of love - an aspect of God Himself.  We are not only emasculating ourselves, we are emasculating God.


And so, Young Catholics, I urge you to give a damn.

Passion and fire are dangerous things, but so is the Holy Spirit.  You need to love to a point where you're willing to fight for what you love.  Yes, sexual desire has the tendency to overtake us, but the answer to that problem is not to mortify sexual desire: we are instead to mortify its two opposite sins,
lust and acedia (sloth).  Lust is Eros unrestrained; but Acedia is Eros suffocated.  Of the two, Acedia is the more serious sin, for it's more spiritual.

And, next to Despair, it is the sin of choice for today's Young Catholics.

Oh, and Young Catholic Men, if you don't get off porn, you'll never be able to relate to a woman in a healthy way.   And if your primary orientation is same sex attraction, tell the gal you're dating so she can do the right thing and not marry you.

And Young Catholic Women, if he's dragging his feet and he's been doing so for a year or longer, dump him.  Especially if you haven't been sexually active with him, for if he's not motivated by you physically, and if he won't marry you despite your bond being strong in all other ways, there's a problem - a problem with his Eros.  But don't let there be a problem with yours.

Eros was a god for the Greeks - and it is an aspect of God for us.  Ignore it at your peril.


Anonymous said...

The strange attitudes to intimacy and sex aren't limited to the Westians. Just the other day I was on a Catholic message board where people were responding to this guys problem with his girlfriend - they had intimacy issues.
Then up pops this guy insisting that making out and french-kissing are mortal sins,supported with some quotes from a few creepy priests circa 1930. Bear in mind that no-one was discussing these things, he just felt it was vital we all accept that making out with your significant other is apparently frowned upon by Our Lord.
I mean, damn!

Anonymous said...

You don't need to be a wowser to see a problem with extensive making out.

If you accept that sex is meant for marriage AND you acknowledge that eros, passionate desire, is a normal precursor (and hopefully an enduring, if fluctuating, one) then hardcore making out is worth at least questioning.

It is because of eros and it's power St Paul says "get married real quick" if you know where it is going, prudence included.

I don't know why Catholics wait so long and are engaged for so long.

- Robert

Anonymous said...

French kissing is sexual and besides, how can you do that without sinful thoughts?

Nathan Hicks said...

Urges are not sins, the decisions you make with them can be. I've had kisses that were more sensual than any french kiss, so I highly doubt it's the physical act that's the problem (in the case of french kissing). It's the attitude you take to the extensive making out.

Thinking "Wow she's great!" is one thing. Thinking "Wow, this is great for me and I wanna take it as far as I can" and allowing that to happen is quite the other. It's not a sin to feel attraction and heavy desire. It's another to act on it selfishly.

James B said...

These series of posts really get to my problems with West and with modern Catholic dating. It's not that West is overly sexual, it's that he's not very erotic and extremely maudlin. He sets himself up as an alternative to the "creepy priests" described above, but he's really just saying many of the same things in a different way.

West turns Catholic theology and the work of St. John Paul II into a bad mass market "Christian" romance novel. He's peddling emotional porn. Good Catholic girls, perhaps not surprisingly, eat this up. Catholic men, not so much.

But this is not unique to the Westians. Actually, the Westians are borrowing from the sanitized view of Christian life and sexuality that comes from Evangelical Protestant culture. It's the same reason why "Christian music" sucks.

Both Catholic and Protestant circles have the problem in that this really doesn't appeal to men. Furthermore, if men associate good Christian girls and the Christian life with being boring and sentimental, then they will look elsewhere. This leaves both the women and the Church with few men and even fewer men with passion.